Module code: PSY3109

Module Overview

Please note: This module is part of the Applied Psychology stream of Level 6 optional modules and will not be running every year. In some years an alternative optional module within the Applied Psychology stream will be offered instead.

This module will look at social understanding of science and technological innovation from a psychological perspective. It will also investigate the implications that social understanding of science and technology has for the acceptance of such innovation. There will be a particular focus on energy and environmental technologies and policies (e.g. those relating to climate change).

The module will cover four broad themes.

  1. Understanding the context – outlining the history of SUST research and the role that publics play in shaping the fate of scientific and technological innovation.

  2. Theories, concepts and models – outlining and evaluating key psychological theories, models, concepts and approaches of relevance to SUST (e.g. values, attitudes, risk perception, trust, etc.).

  3. Social understanding in practice: A – outlining and discussing the evolution of efforts to promote SUST and the implications for public acceptance; from knowledge deficit thinking to public participation.

  4. Social understanding in practice: B – elucidating important methodological considerations when seeking to assess the attitudes and understanding of different publics to scientific or technological innovation.  

Module provider


Module Leader

JONES Christopher (Psychology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 128

Lecture Hours: 22

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

BSc Psychology Levels 4 and 5 or equivalent This module has a capped number and may not be available to ERASMUS and other international exchange students. Please check with the departmental exchange coordinator.

Module content

Indicative key topics will include:

  1. The history of SUST research from a psychological perspective.

  2. SUST and its links to public acceptance of scientific and technological innovation.

  3. Psychological concepts, theories, models and approaches to understanding the acceptance of innovation (e.g. technology acceptance model, TAM).

  4. Approaches to public engagement and communication and their implications for social acceptance; from knowledge-deficit thinking to participatory involvement.

  5. Methodological considerations when assessing SUST and public opinions of innovation.

The order and specificity of the topics above is flexible.

Each week we will discuss and evaluate the academic and applied relevance of the topic at hand. 

It is intended that one of the 11 seminar sessions will be run by a non-academic practitioner, to showcase the ‘real world’ relevance of academic understanding of SUST to their practice (To Be Confirmed). 

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination EXAMINATION (1 HOUR) 50

Alternative Assessment

Students who take temporary suspension partway through this module may not be able to complete the remaining classes for this module on their return if it is not running in the following academic year. Such students will have the choice to take a replacement module, or, if they have already completed an assessment for the original module, to attend classes from a new optional module within the same stream (area of psychology) and complete an alternative assessment based on this content that meets the learning outcomes of the original module. The specific alternative assessment will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate each of the abovementioned learning outcomes.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

Small-group project (including 20 min group oral-presentation [25%] and individual 4-page written summary [25%])

In order to allow students to apply their learning of the psychological theories, concepts, models and approaches introduced and discussed in the seminars; they will each be required to contribute to a group project and presentation outlining a concept (e.g. physical installation, social-media campaign, etc.) for promoting and assessing social understanding and opinions of a contemporary scientific or technological issue. The issue can be of the groups choosing but should be of relevance to energy and/or the environment.

This presentation will be supported by an individually completed, 4-page written document summarising the concept and detailing the practical and theoretical rationale behind its design.

Full details of the assessment will be provided in Week 1. The oral presentation will take place in Week 10 or 11 at which time the written summary document will also be due. Students will complete the task in small groups (5-6 students). The presentation will (a) set the context for why the topic is important, (b) provide the theoretical background and summarise the literature of relevance to the concept, and (c) describe and evaluate the strengths and limitations of the concept.

For support, we will introduce the assessment in class in Week 1 and discuss it at regular periods throughout the subsequent weeks. During these sessions students will receive formative feedback from the module convenor and their peers about their concept. The module convenor will engage with the SurreyLearn discussion board and respond to queries or issues that arise there.

Students will receive final, written feedback on their group presentations and summary reports before sitting the examination component of the course.

Examination (1 hour, 50%)

The exam will involve answering 1 essay question from a choice of 3 questions. The questions will require students to synthesise material across multiple weeks of the course and further reading to address broader issues.

The module convenor will engage with the SurreyLearn discussion board and respond to queries or issues relating to the examination. There will be opportunity for students to raise and discuss questions relating to the examination throughout the taught component of the module.

Justification for Assessment Methods

The examinations will principally assess Learning Outcomes 1 & 2 (breadth of theoretical and conceptual understanding, including ability to synthesise and critically analyse material from across the module). The justification for having 3 questions (as opposed to the usual 4) is to encourage students to think more holistically about the course content. 

The group project (including presentation and written summary) will principally assess Learning Outcome 3 (application of understanding). The project will build teamwork, critical thinking and communication skills (Learning Outcome 4), as well as further developing students’ conceptual and methodological understanding (mapping to Learning Outcomes 1 & 2).

Module aims

  • Raise awareness of the role that publics can have for the fate of technological and scientific innovation and to discuss how this relates to efforts to promote SUST.
  • Introduce, discuss and evaluate psychological perspectives, theories and concepts relating to understanding and assessing SUST.
  • Chart how public engagement and communication efforts have evolved in relation to research into SUST.
  • Highlight key methodological issues that should be considered when seeking to assess public understanding and attitudes towards scientific and technological innovation.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Outline and discuss the relevance of SUST for the fate of scientific and technological innovation from a psychological perspective KC
002 Outline and critically evaluate psychological concepts, theories and methodological considerations pertinent to understanding SUST and technology acceptance KC
003 Apply conceptual learning in order to design a successful means of promoting and evaluating public understanding of contemporary scientific or technological issues PT
004 Students will also develop their skills in collaborative team-working and presentation and communication PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to engage students with learning about the state of the field as well as equipping them to apply their conceptual understanding. Therefore, it includes a combination of lectures, teacher and student-led discussions and small-group work—both in class and virtual. 

The learning and teaching methods include:

Week 1-9: Lectures and seminar discussion (introducing and evaluating key constructs and themes outlined above)

Week 10-11: Small group presentations (i.e. Assessment 1), revision and exam preparation

(all sessions outlined above are 2-hour sessions)

Formative feedback from module convenor on each small-group draft presentation will occur a few days prior to each group’s presentation.

Dedicated SurreyLearn page including space to discuss readings and the week’s critical questions.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PSY3109

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Psychology BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2020/1 academic year.